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Trump Pardons Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio

Last night, President Trump followed through on his impulse to pardon notorious former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

President Trump on Friday pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff whose aggressive efforts to hunt down and detain undocumented immigrants made him a national symbol of the divisive politics of immigration and earned him a criminal contempt conviction.

In a two-paragraph statement, the White House said that Mr. Arpaio gave “years of admirable service to our nation” and called him a “worthy candidate for a presidential pardon.”

Mr. Trump called Mr. Arpaio “an American patriot” in a tweet later Friday.

Arpaio’s conviction, less than a month ago, was for a misdemeanor, not the heinous abuses for which he was investigated:

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio committed a crime by defying a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants, a judge ruled on Monday, in the latest rebuke for a once-popular politician who was voted out of office last year.

United States District Judge Susan R. Bolton found Mr. Arpaio, 85, guilty of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Mr. Arpaio’s lawyers said he would appeal.

I have long had qualms about punishing subjects of criminal investigations for their conduct during said investigations, such as giving misleading testimony, when prosecutors are unable to prove the allegations which sparked the investigation. But this wasn’t that:

The criminal charge grew out of a lawsuit filed a decade ago charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally, and turning them over to the immigration authorities.

Hearing the suit, another federal district judge, G. Murray Snow, ordered the sheriff in 2011 to halt detention based solely on suspicion of a person’s immigration status, when there was no evidence that a state law had been broken. An appeals court upheld that ruling, and Judge Snow later reinforced it with other orders.

But Mr. Arpaio insisted, publicly and repeatedly, that his office’s practices were legal and would not change, and advocates said the detentions continued.

On Monday, Judge Bolton ruled that Mr. Arpaio had willfully violated the 2011 court order. “Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” she wrote.

Six months and a misdemeanor conviction is pretty light for such willful and blatant violation of a lawful order from a federal court. I’m in complete agreement with Arpaio’s fellow Arizona Republican, John McCain:

“No one is above the law,” he said, “and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold.”

There’s no question that the president has the right to pardon Arpaio. But doing so shows utter contempt for our legal system. Not only did Arpaio commit countless civil rights abuses under color of his authority, but he then flouted the judicial order and continues to not only show no remorse but revel in his contempt for it. Pardoning him under the circumstances is an abrogation of the president’s Constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. teve tory says:

    Hearing the suit, another federal district judge, G. Murray Snow, ordered the sheriff in 2011 to halt detention based solely on suspicion of a person’s immigration status, when there was no evidence that a state law had been broken. An appeals court upheld that ruling, and Judge Snow later reinforced it with other orders.

    “We’re holding him on suspicion he looks like a dirty Messican.”

    Well, Trump’s supporters should be happy with this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. george says:

    Trump’s going to Trump. The sad thing is, this isn’t even in the top 10 of the worst things he’s done, and he’s still in his first year.

    But it shows the problem with allowing Presidential pardons in the first place. Most countries dont’ have such a mechanism, and with reason.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. CSK says:

    The timing is interesting. Trump was always going to pardon Arpaio, but I believe he did it last night in order to neutralize the angry reaction of his supporters to the Gorka firing/resignation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Tony W says:

    @CSK: And in the most cowardly way possible – Friday night news cycle, under cover of the hurricane news.

    That’s leadership folks!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. MarkedMan says:

    A question for the OTB Legal Irregulars: any chance the state AG will use his pardon as a way to draw out testimony about something?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Becca says:

    I heard that one has to accept guilt to receive a pardon. I don’t think Joe has done that.

    Also, does this open him up to civil suits?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. It’s worth noting that this pardon does not mean that Arpaio cannot assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the future.

    At least theoretically, he could be subject to prosecution under state law for actions he took while Sheriff because a Presidential pardon only covers violations of Federal law. Because of that, the Fifth Amendment still applies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “No one is above the law,” he said, “and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold.”

    trump begs to differ.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Becca: I don’t recall Nixon admitting any guilt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Correct, with the caveat that the record of the prior federal proceedings, including any testimony he may have already given, investigative findings, etc., is admissible in a state court. His chances of having that excluded are minimal, at best.

    That having been said, this was a squirrel. It’s best to let him scamper off to his tree, and hold this in reserve in the event that he gets the foolish idea that he wants to do anything but quietly enjoy his retirement with his mouth shut

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Becca:

    I heard that one has to accept guilt to receive a pardon.

    No. They can be issued at any point in the judicial process, including before proceedings have begun.

    That having been said, a pardon is pretty much universally regarded as confirmation of the existence of wrongdoing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. MarkedMan says:

    Doug, how about a Federal compulsion to testify?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. gVOR08 says:

    Pardoning him under the circumstances is an abrogation of the president’s Constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

    This is Trump, what’s duty got to do with anything? Rule of law is for losers, he’s above the law. The only duty he sees is to maintain his popularity with his base, and you saw in his Phoenix rally how that will play out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Slugger says:

    The pardon power is one of the most solemn responsibilities of the President. I personally see the Nixon pardon as proper; it made no one think that Nixon’s actions were proper. The Marc Rich pardon was a problem for me because it seemed to be a favor for a rich guy. The only justification for it is that others who made deals with Iran were not prosecuted. Using the words “solemn” and “responsibilities ” in the same sentence as Trump is beyond oxymoronic. Trump has openly advocated physical abuse of protesters and people apprehended by the cops as well as desecration of the dead. Lady Justice better peek under her blindfold when he is around; he’ll grab her by the p*ssy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Becca says:

    @HarvardLaw92: thanx for the response.

    Also, how much does want Flake and McCain primaried, eh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. teve tory says:

    Breitbart comments right now:

    Rubicon • 15 hours ago
    CNN/MSM heads exploding! Trump Still The Man!

    Now Let Sheriff Joe Finish The Job of Booting Illegals Out of USA!
    900
    •Reply•Share ›
    Avatar

    Simon Battle Rubicon • 15 hours ago
    OUR President Donald Trump, doing the right thing! Another WIN for America!
    617
    •Reply•Share ›
    Avatar

    eddie7000 Simon Battle • 15 hours ago
    Good people getting good help from Government. I like it.
    406
    •Reply•Share ›
    Avatar

    fird eddie7000 • 15 hours ago
    MY President, OUR President ought to hire Joe into Homeland Security next, make him the Arizona Border Security Czar.

    SO PROUD OF MY PRESIDENT !

    That BOOM! was collective heads at MSNBCNN blowing up. One can only hope for similiar results for “The View” goofballs.

    IF Hussein could pardon that loony toon “Chelsea” Manning from a 30+ year felony stretch then by God Trump can pardon Joe for a misdemeanor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    That having been said, this was a squirrel. It’s best to let him scamper off to his tree, and hold this in reserve in the event that he gets the foolish idea that he wants to do anything but quietly enjoy his retirement with his mouth shut

    Unfortunately, as the Roy Moore fiasco has demonstrated, this incident probably makes him more popular with the Republican base.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Gustopher says:

    I have long had qualms about punishing subjects of criminal investigations for their conduct during said investigations, such as giving misleading testimony, when prosecutors are unable to prove the allegations which sparked the investigation. But this wasn’t that

    Ah yes, the old “it’s ok to obstruct justice if you are successful” argument…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    That having been said, a pardon is pretty much universally regarded as confirmation of the existence of wrongdoing.

    I am still disgusted that the Obama administration never prosecuted anyone from the Bush administration for war crimes and/or torture. I understand the argument that it would have torn the country apart politically, and that even the threat of prosecution may have caused Republicans to double down on if it were a legitimate policy and not a crime — Trump was elected on an explicitly pro-torture platform. But it still disgusts me. And, with one party now officially pro-torture and pro-war-crimes, I don’t think prosecuting would have made things worse long term.

    I wonder whether pardoning people might have been the way to go. Acknowledge the crimes, and explicitly say we aren’t going to prosecute. Name and shame.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  20. Gustopher says:

    There’s no question that the president has the right to pardon Arpaio. But doing so shows utter contempt for our legal system. Not only did Arpaio commit countless civil rights abuses under color of his authority, but he then flouted the judicial order and continues to not only show no remorse but revel in his contempt for it. Pardoning him under the circumstances is an abrogation of the president’s Constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

    But, Trump has a base to appease, and white supremacists to coddle, and that takes priority.

    And, it sends a clear message to anyone involved in the Russia probe that pardons are out there, and real, so don’t go flipping and helping the prosecutors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  21. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Gustopher:

    And, it sends a clear message to anyone involved in the Russia probe that pardons are out there, and real, so don’t go flipping and helping the prosecutors

    .

    I’ve also heard it suggested that a pardon limits the application of 5th amendment protections against self-incrimination. So what I wonder is: Can a pardoned person refuse to testify with regard to co-conspirators?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. wr says:

    But Obama did something something something. And Hillary’s emails. Benghazi!!!

    Now we don’t have to hear from Jenos, JKB, Guarneri or the rest of the moron brigade.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. al-Ameda says:

    So far, the Trump presidency is an extended
    Spring Break party headquartered out of Mar-a-Lago.

    Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson or Donald Trump.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. Tyrell says:

    @Tony W: From what I heard it was no cover as some of the news networks were talking more about Trump’s actions and the hurricane was on the insert screens.
    This is interesting: ESPN pulls sportscaster named Robert Lee from Saturday college game. Their explanation was convoluted and didn’t make sense. Any how, there has been a huge backlash from the people who want sports instead of all the social and political discussions and positioning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  25. Jen says:

    @Tyrell:

    This is interesting: ESPN pulls sportscaster named Robert Lee from Saturday college game. Their explanation was convoluted and didn’t make sense. Any how, there has been a huge backlash from the people who want sports instead of all the social and political discussions and positioning.

    No, that is NOT what happened. Robert Lee decided that he didn’t want to become a national laugh line/meme, and he and ESPN, in an employer/employee capacity, decided to switch him to another game. RWNJ lost their minds over this, when all it was was a fairly new announcer who had seen “his” name in the news every day deciding he didn’t want to be part of a social media pile-on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. Mikey says:

    Congressman Justin Amash, R-MI, makes a very good point on the Twitter:

    Arpaio was convicted of defying court order to stop violating #4thAmendment. It’s a pardon of a govt official who ignored Bill of Rights.

    https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/901252486937403394

    Further evidence (as if we needed any) of the meaninglessness of the Constitution to Trump and his supporters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. teve tory says:

    Roger Stone‏Verified account @RogerJStoneJr 18h18 hours ago
    More

    .@realDonaldTrump pardons Joe Arpaio !!!!! Eat it, liberals !

    linky

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Senyordave says:

    @teve tory: .@realDonaldTrump pardons Joe Arpaio !!!!! Eat it, liberals !

    Given that its Roger Stone, I’m surprised we didn’t get something like this after Charlottesville:

    Trump praises some nazis and klansmen as good people, eat it Jews and blacks!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Has anyone seen the actual text of the Arpaio pardon?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0